A Tribute To Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

“You listen to me, you’ll go straight to the top!  You don’t listen to me, you’ll never be heard from again!”

In the golden era of the manager, played by usually retired or semi-retired wrestlers who were exceptional talkers and could advocate for younger talent who couldn’t do it themselves, no one was more exceptional than Bobby Heenan.  Although, few remember his matches, everybody remembers his promos and colour commentary.  He would go on to inspire a legion of imitators, none of whom could top him.

Nicknaming himself “The Brain” for his supposed managerial genius (he was originally Pretty Boy but had to change it because that was also Larry Hennig’s gimmick), the fans preferred “Weasel” thanks to Dick The Bruiser who kept calling him that during his first year in the American Wrestling Association way back in 1974.  (Heenan’s career as a wrestler/manager began almost a decade earlier.)  Bruiser and his tag team partner The Crusher were feuding with Heenan’s team of Nick Bockwinkel and Ray “The Crippler” Stevens at the time.  Both monikers would survive the entirety of Heenan’s career in professional wrestling.

A natural heel with a very sharp sense of humour, the blonde motormouth who often wore glittery sports jackets had an uncanny knack of drawing heat for himself and the numerous wrestlers he represented.  When Bockwinkel and Stevens split, Heenan guided the former to several AWA world titles.  (He also advocated for the AWA tag champions Bobby Duncum Sr. and Blackjack Lanza.)  In 1983, Bockwinkel faced a popular new challenger in Hulk Hogan.  It began a long-running storyline feud between The Brain and the future megastar which carried over into the WWF shortly thereafter.  (Ironically, they were friends in real-life although they did have their tense moments.)

It was there in New York that Heenan truly shined.  In 1984, he stood in the corner for Ken Patera (who he also managed in the AWA) and Big John Studd as they took on Andre The Giant and S.D. Jones in an infamous TV tag match.  At one point, Heenan climbed onto the apron and handed Studd a pair of scissors.  What followed was the humiliation of The Eighth Wonder Of The World as his unruly head of curly hair was severely cut by both Studd & Patera who claimed his long locks as trophies.  Vince McMahon oversold the moment as the “raping” of Andre’s dignity.

Studd’s ongoing gimmick of offering $15000 (it was originally $10000) to anyone who could slam him (and then reneging on the deal when a few were able to do it) led to a match with Andre at the first WrestleMania.  If Andre couldn’t slam Studd within an hour time limit, he’d have to retire.  He scooped him up and threw him to the mat in less than 10 minutes.  As Andre was trying to throw the money to the ringside fans from a tiny WWF gym bag it was stored in, a frantic Heenan flew into the ring to snatch it from him before it was all gone.

The Heenan/Andre feud would carry on into the summer of 1985 when during a match with Studd in Toronto’s old Maple Leaf Gardens, King Kong Bundy would jump into the ring to prevent The Giant from giving Studd a haircut of his own.  Heenan ordered the bald Bundy to splash Andre whose legs were being held down by Studd.  As Bundy jumped into the air, The Brain would sometimes give him an extra push while he was in mid-air as he repeatedly landed on the helpless Giant’s chest.

A similar moment occurred during a TV segment that same year when Heenan was announced as the Manager Of The Year but because Hillbilly Jim gave his votes to Lou Albano, the “Captain” became the official winner instead.

Rightly infuriated, Heenan demanded his own brand of justice.  Studd tackled Jim and held down his legs as Bundy splashed him several times before the ring was cleared by babyface wrestlers from the backstage area, just like in Toronto.

During Hogan’s title defense against The Magnificent Muraco on Saturday Night’s Main Event in early 1986, Heenan mysteriously replaced Mr. Fuji as his cornerman.  And after he caused the beach bum’s disqualification, Bundy saved him from being choked out by the world champion.  Heenan then instructed Bundy and Muraco to do their worst to Hogan.  Lots of avalanches and splashes followed.  This set up the steel cage match between Hogan & Bundy at WrestleMania 2.  After he retained the title, Hogan got his revenge by atomic dropping, punching and whipping The Brain against the steel structure.  Nothing pleased a crowd more than watching The Weasel get his long overdue comeuppance.  It happened a lot.

When Andre returned, he would find a succession of partners to challenge Studd & Bundy for more than a year.  When The Masked Superstar (the future Demolition Ax) and Blackjack Mulligan (Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas’ grandfather) were repackaged as The Super and Big Machines in 1986, Andre donned a mask himself and became The Giant Machine, a gimmick he recycled for stints in Japan.  The Machines & “Captain” Lou Albano (with a masked Andre in their corner) took on Studd, Bundy & Heenan himself in a six-man encounter at The Big Event in Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium.  The Heenan Family won by DQ.

In a surprise twist at the start of 1987, Andre would turn heel by aligning with Heenan in the build to his world title match against former friend Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 3.  Andre would famously lose that match (The Brain desperately complained for a year that the early false finish was really a three-count) but after Heenan sold his contract to Ted DiBiase he would win the rematch through a screw-job during the live Main Event broadcast the following year.

During this same period, Heenan managed Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff.  After Orndorff & Roddy Piper lost to Hogan & Mr. T in the main event of the first WrestleMania, The Brain accidentally noted on TNT that he talked match strategy without the presence of his client.  Deeply offended and already feeling humiliated by being abandoned by Piper and bodyguard Bob Orton in Madison Square Garden, Mr. Wonderful fired him.  But the following year, after Orndorff turned on Hogan during a TV tag match against Studd & Bundy, they reconciled.  Orndorff would unsuccessfully challenge Hogan in a series of world title matches which included the main event of The Big Event and the steel cage match on Saturday Night’s Main Event.

When Heenan started representing “Ravishing” Rick Rude and started comparing Orndorff unfavourably to him, Mr. Wonderful fired him again and briefly aligned with Oliver Humperdink before leaving the company following the first Survivor Series where he once again became a Hogan ally.

After spending almost two years in prison under questionable circumstances, a now babyface and no longer blonde Ken Patera returned to feud with The Brain, his former manager, and various members of The Heenan Family in the summer of 1987.  In the storyline, Heenan abandoned his former charge, leaving him to rot.  The former Olympic strongman challenged him to a TV debate which led to Heenan ultimately wearing a neck brace long after he needed to.

When former eight-time NWA world champion Harley Race joined the WWF in 1986 and eventually became The King, Heenan stood in his corner until an accident during a Hulk Hogan match led to his retirement two and a half years later.  And no, he didn’t have surgery at the hands of The Immortal One, as The Brain humourously unintentionally asserted in a promo.

At the end of 1988, Heenan made another questionable deal with DiBiase.  He sold Hercules to him so The Million Dollar Man could have a slave which led to a mercifully brief program.

After nearly five years without managing a champion, Heenan finally had something to brag about in 1989.  He helped Rude beat The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania 5 for the InterContinental Championship (Warrior regained it at SummerSlam thanks to the antics of Piper who became an enemy of The Heenan Family) while The Brain Busters (Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson) were able to dethrone the then-longest reigning world tag title holders Demolition during a Saturday Night’s Main Event taping.

When Ax & Smash regained the belts shortly thereafter, Heenan teamed Andre with Haku (who previously teamed with another Heenan Family member Tama) to form The Colossal Connection who won back the straps at the end of the year.  During a WrestleMania 6 rematch in 1990, after Demoltion won the titles for a third and final time, a pissed off Andre who was never tagged in (he was too hurt to bump) finally disassociated from The Brain, a routine that was repeated in a series of subsequent house shows that ended The Giant’s long in-ring career.

Another client who turned on Heenan was Terry Taylor who The Brain renamed The Red Rooster, one of the lamer nicknames in wrestling history.  Taking credit for his early undefeated streak while frequently knocking his abilities, a boiling point was reached during Saturday Night’s Main Event when Heenan’s tirades were aired during the match.  (He was miked for the whole segment.)

After Tito Santana beat him, Heenan ripped into Taylor who retaliated by decking him.  During a later Prime Time Wrestling interview with Gorilla Monsoon, Heenan’s new protégé Steve Lombardi (renamed The Brooklyn Brawler) attacked both men setting up a long series of matches between the two that were mostly won by Taylor.  At WrestleMania 5, Taylor, still going by the Rooster name and now with a silly dyed red faux hawk, easily defeated his former manager in a very quick in-ring encounter.

Things got a lot better for Heenan when he started managing Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig (Pretty Boy Larry’s son later known as The Ax) and guided him to two InterContinental Championship reigns in 1990.  That is, until he started feuding with Ric Flair.  The Nature Boy lost a losers leaves WWF match on Raw to Hennig in 1993 and so The Brain started representing “The Narcissist” Lex Luger who went after Hennig in his place.

Because of his quick wit and intelligent promos, Heenan was paired with both Gorilla Monsoon, his real-life pal, and later Vince McMahon at the commentary table.  The self-professed broadcast journalist would playfully antagonize an always exasperated Monsoon during their many appearances on Wrestling Challenge, Prime Time Wrestling (which spawned The Bobby Heenan Show) and taped house shows at Maple Leaf Gardens, Boston Garden and Madison Square Garden.  Monsoon’s constant refrain of “Would you stop?” whenever The Brain would get under his skin, lie or say something that bothered him was a staple of their endlessly entertaining schtick.

As a kid, I tended to prefer Monsoon and Jesse Ventura, incidentally the first guy Heenan managed in the WWF.  But as a man, there’s no question that Heenan and Monsoon were the best of their era.  When he wasn’t being the Rickles of wrestling, Heenan could masterfully and succinctly assess a wrestler whether he liked them or not.  When he noted The Undertaker’s Frankenstein-like invincibility, he famously asserted, “He’s not human.”  His outspokenness often got him into trouble like the many times he upset The Big Boss Man for mocking his mother which led to a brief storyline.

During the 1992 30-man Royal Rumble match, Heenan was at his memorable best when he shamelessly shilled for The Real World’s Champion Ric Flair who drew number 3 in the draw and ultimately won the vacant world title by being the last man standing.  Heenan’s humourously pleading “be fair to Flair” routine was so good (he’s in a perpetual panic for the entire hour), the entire match was included on a WWE DVD dedicated to his career.  (The entertaining accompanying documentary reveals his utterly charming devotion to his wife and daughter, quite the contrast from his roasty on-camera persona.)

In December 1993, Heenan was literally tossed off Monday Night Raw so he could take a break and recover from a longstanding neck injury.  But in early 1994, he would start working for WCW which allowed him to be closer to his family.  The Brain’s commentary stint there wasn’t nearly as effective as it was in the WWF.  With no Monsoon to drive crazy, it just wasn’t the same.  Dusty Rhodes, Larry Zbyszko, Mongo McMichael and Tony Schiavone were all unsuitable replacements.  The chemistry so easily achieved with his old friend just wasn’t there in the new environment.

The most memorable moments involved an accident and an impromptu eulogy.  Brian Pillman didn’t realize that Heenan was not to be touched which led to a live on-air expletive (Pillman later apologized) and when Gorilla Monsoon died in 1999, Heenan insisted this be acknowledged on the air even though his longtime friend wasn’t a WCW employee.  He later left the commentary table and wept.  (During his 2004 WWE Hall of Fame speech, in a touching conclusion, he wished that Monsoon had been there to see him be inducted.)

As he noted in one of his two autobiographies, Heenan’s experience in WCW was far from positive.  He was let go in early 2000, a year before the struggling company was bought out by Vince McMahon.

After that, The Brain would make infrequent on-camera appearances.  He did guest commentary with Mean Gene Okerlund at WrestleMania 17 during the very short gimmick battle royal (they also found themselves caught in the act with The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young) and also worked brief stints with the XWF (where he reunited with Curt Hennig), Ring Of Honor (where he feuded with Jim Cornette) and TNA (where he attempted to represent Bobby Roode).

In 2002, Heenan’s charmed life changed forever when he was first diagnosed with throat cancer, a cruel twist of fate for a talented man who depended so much on the strength and bluster of his voice.  The consequences of that diagnosis would greatly affect his physical appearance and the sounds emanating from his lightning quick mind.  He would never fully recover.

Earlier today, after years of surgeries to repair his jaw and numerous damaging falls, Heenan died suddenly at the age of 72 surrounded by close family including his wife of nearly 40 years, Cynthia, and his only child, Jessica, who bore him his only grandchild, Austin, who is not yet 10.

As expected, tributes from some of the biggest names in wrestling past and present have been glowing and with good reason.  Bobby Heenan played a major role in the evolution of the business.  He began working in the WWF just as it was about to make its national expansion.  He helped elevate numerous talents whether they could speak or not.  And he could take a bump over and over again even if most of them were as a manager.  No one could turn an audience against him quite as quickly and as effectively as The Brain did.

Heenan never had a five-star classic as an in-ring grappler.  You can’t achieve that with Weasel Suit matches.  But he didn’t need to.  Heenan was first and foremost a talker, a great talker, one you looked forward to hearing every week.  Sure, he derided you as a humanoid and ham ‘n egger for rooting for the babyfaces that often went to war with his Family members and did dastardly things to make his clients happy and successful.  But he kept you laughing and laughing some more.  And he was smart.  Every time he offered an observation, you listened.  The WWE would not be where it is today were it not for him.

Throughout the history of wrestling, there have been great talkers, managers and commentators.  Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was all three at once.

Rest in peace, Weasel.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, September 18, 2017
2:14 a.m.

CORRECTIONS:  Bobby Heenan was actually 72, not 73.  And he married his wife Cynthia in 1978, not 1974.  The text has been corrected.  My apologies for the mistakes.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, September 18, 2017
11:41 p.m.

UPDATE:  The cause of death, according to The Tampa Bay Times, was “organ failure caused by throat cancer”.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, September 21, 2017
4:04 a.m.

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Published in: on September 18, 2017 at 2:14 am  Leave a Comment  

La La Land Wins Best Picture…Wait, No, It’s Moonlight…Bizarre Ending To Mostly Predictable, Political And Often Funny 2017 Oscars

What the fuck was that, Faye Dunaway?  What in the holy hell were you thinking, Warren Beatty?

The 89th Annual Academy Awards ended in a total embarrassment with the botched announcement for Best Picture.  After curiously stalling and staring and stalling and staring, a confused Beatty handed over the opened envelope to his oblivious Bonnie & Clyde co-star who claimed La La Land had won the final award of the evening.

After a number of acceptance speeches by the film’s thrilled producers, someone backstage came out to try to stop their presentation.  Why?  Because it turned out Moonlight had actually won.  Beatty & Dunaway apparently did not have the right envelope.

At one point, an incredulous Jimmy Kimmel, the host of the event, asked Beatty directly, “Warren, what did you do?”

A sheepish Beatty said that when he saw Emma Stone’s name, he got bewildered.  But instead of having the wherewithal to say, hey, wait a minute, I don’t think this is the right envelope, he put Dunaway in the awful position of reading the wrong name for Best Picture.  Good God, what a fiasco.  Considering how the show saved those clips of the nominees for the actual presentation, there was more than enough time to switch envelopes without anyone at home noticing.

Moonlight’s surprise win for Best Picture was its third award of the night.  New father Mahershala Ali, as expected, took home Best Supporting Actor.  He mentioned the birth of his baby daughter four days ago as he graciously acknowledged his wife’s patience through all the awards he’s been collecting for his well regarded performance.  He also thanked his teachers for all they taught him.  Moonlight also won Best Adapted Screenplay.

Despite the Best Picture screw-up, La La Land still managed to take home six golden gongs.  The aforementioned Emma Stone, who delivered a sweet, charming speech thanking friends, family and the people who worked on the film, took home Best Actress (Beatty had a duplicate envelope, apparently) and Damien Chazelle was named Best Director.  Neither victory was a surprise.  It also won for its original score, its production design, its cinematography and in a bit of an upset, for the song City Of Stars, over the number one smash hit Can’t Stop The Feeling!, the Trolls track that Justin Timberlake performed at the beginning of the broadcast.

Also unsurprising was sexual harasser Casey Affleck’s win for Best Actor for his work in Manchester By The Sea.  Is he planning a sequel to I’m Still Here?  For some reason, he was sporting Joaquin Phoenix’s bearded slob look.  Kenneth Lonergan, the director of the film, won for writing its original screenplay.

Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis (Fences) gave the most impassioned acceptance speech of the night as she spoke about the forgotten laying in their graves, their stories of love & loss and failure otherwise left untold were it not for artists who take up their cause.  She urged the business to “exhume” their experiences for the cinema.

Other predictable results included the excellent OJ: Made In America taking Best Documentary Feature and Zootopia winning Best Animated Feature.  Hacksaw Ridge, racist misogynist Mel Gibson’s comeback movie, managed to take two technical prizes of its own for its film editing and its sound mixing.  (The full list of winners is at the end of this piece.)

Next to Best Picture, the biggest surprise for me was Suicide Squad taking home Best Make-Up & Hairstyling over Star Trek Beyond.  That’s one more Oscar than Lion, Hidden Figures and Hell Or High Water received combined.  They were the only Best Picture nominees to get completely shut out of any golden eunuchs.

In the midst of the expected political speeches from some of the honorees (including one presenter who openly opposed President Stupid’s racist border wall) were some pretty funny moments courtesy of host Jimmy Kimmel who started strong with his monologue (he mocked Mel Gibson’s ghastly appearance quipping that Scientology was agreeing with him and sarcastically knocked the “overrated” Meryl Streep for “phoning it in” her entire career by listing a number of her acclaimed films), had a few off moments but then got funnier as the night progressed.  His response to the crowd’s cool reception to his OJ joke was better than the joke itself.

The constant ribbing of longtime good-natured punching bag Matt Damon continued as expected with the best gag happening during the Best Original Screenplay presentation.  Kimmel actually conducted the orchestra to play very loudly whenever Damon talked.  This followed him and fellow presenter Ben Affleck being announced as “Ben Affleck and guest”.  That followed Kimmel goofing on We Bought A Zoo during a spoof of stars honouring their favourite movies, a recurring segment throughout the show.  When Damon tried defending the performance on stage, Affleck humourously responded, “Really?”  If you want to see how self-deprecating these guys can really get about their movies, check out their very funny Good Will Hunting 2 spoof in the underappreciated Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back.

There was also a funny Oscars edition of celebrities reading Mean Tweets, a silly bit involving an unsuspecting tour group getting to meet some stars while passing through the Dolby Theatre’s sprawling auditorium and a failed attempt to get Donald Trump to tweet about the show.  Oh, and food fell from the sky a few times.  Plus, there was a cute tribute to The Lion King with the adorable kid from Lion.

All in all, Kimmel was a good host who didn’t have too many missteps.  But, by God, what the fuck happened with Best Picture?  Jesus, you had one job, guys.  One.  Come on!

THE FULL LIST OF WINNERS:

BEST PICTURE – MOONLIGHT

BEST DIRECTOR – Damien Chazelle (LA LA LAND)

BEST ACTRESS – Emma Stone (LA LA LAND)

BEST ACTOR – Casey Affleck (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Viola Davis (FENCES)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Mahershala Ali (MOONLIGHT)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – OJ: MADE IN AMERICA

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – THE SALESMAN

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – ZOOTOPIA

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – MOONLIGHT

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – LA LA LAND

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – City Of Stars (LA LA LAND)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – THE JUNGLE BOOK

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – LA LA LAND

BEST FILM EDITING – HACKSAW RIDGE

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – FANTASTIC BEASTS & WHERE TO FIND THEM

BEST MAKE-UP & HAIRSTYLING – SUICIDE SQUAD

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – LA LA LAND

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – PIPER

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – SING

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – THE WHITE HELMETS

BEST SOUND EDITING – ARRIVAL

BEST SOUND MIXING – HACKSAW RIDGE

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 27, 2017
1:27 a.m.

CORRECTION:  The Oscars took place in the Dolby Theatre, not the Kodak Theatre as I erroneously stated. The text has been corrected.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 27, 2017
11:25 p.m.

Published in: on February 27, 2017 at 1:27 am  Leave a Comment  

The Lows Of 2016

1. David Bowie died of cancer two days after releasing his final studio album.  First, there was collective denial, then absolute shock and sadness.  His unexpected death set the tone for a miserable year.

2. Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States.  How much considerable, irreparable harm will he cause to the world?

3. Daniel Bryan retired from the WWE due to severe, unrecoverable injuries.  He was looking like the next John Cena.  Now he’s reduced to being a powerless “authority” figure on Smackdown, a supporting player on a reality show and a punching bag for The Miz.

4. Jian Ghomeshi isn’t in prison.  Rape culture is real.

5. The Fort McMurray fire in Alberta.  Such devastation.  It will takes years to rebuild.

6. Fifty Shades Of Black.  A horrifically unfunny “parody” of Fifty Shades Of Grey.  No more Marlon Wayans movies.  Please.

7. Gord Downie’s terminal brain cancer diagnosis.  May he live as long as he can and make as much good music as he is able.

8. The armed protest at the Oregon Wildlife Refuge.  What exactly did it accomplish other than mass ridicule?

9. The rise in racist hate crimes against Muslims, trans people, gays, Black people, Jews, Palestinians and Indigenous communities worldwide.  White supremacy needs to die already.

10. Mr. Fuji died.

11. Gitmo is still open.

12. CM Punk lost his first UFC fight in the first round.  Years ago, Brock Lesnar lost his first fight as well and went on to become World Champion.  So there’s still hope for The Straight Edge Superstar.  He’ll be back.

13. Krystal on Canada’s Worst Driver 12.  An unrepentant narcissist who is an absolute maniac on the road.  The sooner her license is permanently suspended, the better.  Host Andrew Younghusband deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for tolerating this phone-addicted brat as well and for as long as he did.

14. The phony “Bernie Bro” smear from Clintonistas desperate to keep the Vermont Senator from becoming the Democratic nominee for President.  Not only did this erase the millions of women who supported Bernie Sanders (especially Hillary Clinton’s numerous feminist critics and women of colour), it was dastardly and downright insulting.  In the end, Donald Trump is the next US President, so good job, you stupid idiots.

15. Gawker went bankrupt after losing a court case to balding, overtanned racist Hulk Hogan.  Fuck you, Peter Thiel.

16. The very funny Garry Shandling died.  He spearheaded two of the most influential sitcoms of all time:  It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and The Larry Sanders Show.  He was a great Emmys host, too, and a quiet mentor to so many other comics in need.

17. Prince died of a prescription drug overdose.  The incredible legacy he leaves behind which doesn’t even include the thousands of songs he never released.

18. Zack Ryder’s one and only InterContinental title reign lasted exactly one day.  Why do his pushes always seem like ribs?

19. Doris Roberts died.  Both Barones are gone now.

20. Brexit.  The United Kingdom isn’t so united anymore.  What other European nations will follow Ol’ Blimey’s risky lead?

21. George Michael died on Christmas Day.

22. The endless civil war in Syria.  So many villains who should be prosecuted for war crimes.

23. Palestine is still illegally occupied by Apartheid Israel.

24. Matt DeHart is still in prison.

25. The lack of justice for mostly Black and Indigenous victims of police brutality.  The racist status quo cannot and must not continue to protect murderers and torturers of the state.

26. James Ellsworth.  Enough.

27. Chelsea Manning attempted suicide twice (which she was punished for) as she continues to be persecuted and tortured with solitary confinement for exposing deplorable war crimes by the American government.  Release her immediately and let her transition already.  She’s suffered enough for her uncommon courage and conviction.

28. All the terrible films I saw this year:  Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Pixels, Hot Pursuit, Bad Teacher, The Lazarus Effect, Get Hard, the Black Christmas remake, Johnny English, Johnny English Reborn, Damien: Omen II, Born In East LA, The Wedding Ringer, Identity Thief, The Heat, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, No One Lives, Night Of The Creeps, Bending The Rules, The Last American Virgin, Bloodsport, The Last Exorcism Part II, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Basket Case, Krampus, Dolls, Jessabelle, Brain Damage, Wolfcop, The Haunting In Connecticut 2: Ghosts Of Georgia, Street Trash, Zombie High, We’re The Millers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Masters Of The Universe, Observe And Report, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, Silent Night Deadly Night, Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2, Here Comes The Boom, Let’s Be Cops, Death Wish II, Death Wish 3, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, Death Wish: The Face Of Death, Three Fugitives, Evilspeak, Ride Along, Ride Along 2, Knucklehead, Hatchet, Meatballs, Meatballs Part II, The Gallows, Daddy’s Home, The Out-Of-Towners remake, 22 Jump Street, Ted, Hotel Transylvania, Hotel Transylvania 2, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Funhouse, Critters, Critters 2, the Conan The Barbarian remake, Swing Parade, Africa Screams, At War With The Army, Check And Double Check, The Flying Deuces, Deathouse (AKA Silent Night, Bloody Night), The Smallest Show On Earth, My Favourite Brunette, The Perfect Score, Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie!, And Now For Something Completely Different and The Great Rupert.

29. Only some Russian Olympians were banned from competition in the Summer Games in Brazil.  Why not all of them?  All their Paralympians were barred.  Why the double standard?

30. Cody Rhodes left the WWE.  Even he got sick of being Stardust.

31. MuchMoreMusic was yanked off the air.

32. New2You quietly closed its Lime Ridge location.  I bought so many cheap CDs there over the years.  I will miss it dearly.

33. Ryan Lochte.  What the hell was he thinking?  Oh right.  He wasn’t.

34. Russ Feingold wasn’t able to get elected back to the Senate.

35. “Iron” Mike Sharpe died.  Why isn’t he in the WWE Hall of Fame as a jobber?

36. Amber Heard’s damning testimony about her abusive ex-husband Johnny Depp.  She deserves better and he should be ashamed of himself.

37. The desperate campaign to outlaw the peaceful #BDS movement against Apartheid Israel.  Try as they may, AI and their Western governmental allies cannot stop the inevitable end of violent colonial Zionism.

38. Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds both died during the same week over the Christmas holidays.  Doubly sad.

39. Montreal lost in the MLS final to Seattle.  Boring game.  Penalty kicks are a terrible way to settle a scoreless draw.

40. The Chris Jericho/Dean Ambrose asylum match at Extreme Rules.  Too long and too slow.  No wonder the audience in attendance stayed quiet for most of it.  If it wasn’t for the thumbtacks, the ending would’ve been terrible, too.  Don’t expect this silly concept to be repeated.

41. The overcrowded announce table on Smackdown Live.  Does the WWE not realize that we don’t need three terrible colour commentators all at once?

42. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi.  Michael Bay reimagines the most politicized moment of the misbegotten Libyan invasion as a long-winded action epic.  No thanks.

43. The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 32.  If McMahon hadn’t jumped off the top of Hell In A Cell, would anybody be even talking about this match?  And what was the point of the stipulation if it was never going to be honoured?

44. Radiohead finally released a studio version of True Love Waits and it’s dreary.  I prefer the more moving live version from the I Might Be Wrong EP.

45. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.  Exceedingly manipulative and annoyingly sexist.  I only laughed twice.

46. Ride Along 2.  Will Kevin Hart ever make a good comedy?  Just as bad as the original.

47. The constant, dangerous scaremongering about Vladimir Putin and Russia.  Democrats will blame anybody but themselves for their pathetic electoral performance this year.  Soul searching is not their strong suit.

48. Damien Sandow was fired from the WWE.  That’s not the way you treat The Intellectual Savior Of The Unwashed Masses.

49. The Forest.  The concept is far better than the execution, unfortunately.

50. Rodrigo Duterte, the psychotic leader of The Philippines, who openly admitted to murdering his citizens as part of his horrific War on Drugs.  No wonder he’s an ally of the American government.

51. The Liberals lied about the deal to sell weaponry to Saudi Arabia.  Now it’s up to a Canadian court to decide whether it should be honoured.  It shouldn’t.

52. The overblown incident in the House of Commons when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accidentally elbowed an MP from the NDP during a contentious vote.  Trudeau wasn’t the one who needed to apologize repeatedly.  When even feminists criticized the controversy, you know it was nothing.

53. Kellie Leitch.  Loathsome, dishonest, racist, elitist.  The perfect face for the modern Conservative Party of Canada.

54. Obama & Congress will give 40 billion dollars to Apartheid Israel to help it continue propping up its endless, illegal occupation of oppressed Palestinians over the next decade.  If Netanyahu’s truly upset about the Iran Deal and the USG’s refusal to veto the latest UN condemnation of illegal settlements, he’ll reject the money.  You know he won’t, though.  Because #BDS is hurting Apartheid Israel’s economy.  And Zionism needs welfare to survive.

55. The ongoing, heartless persecution of Palestinian activist and torture survivor Rasmeh Odeh.  End her ordeal and clear her name already.

56. No one has gone to prison for murdering Baltimore resident Freddie Gray.

57. One stubborn juror led to the mistrial of North Carolina police officer Michael Slager who murdered Walter Scott as captured on video.  It’s Rodney King all over again.  Even actual footage isn’t enough to get a conviction for a white cop killing a black man in America.

58. 49 people were murdered at a gay club in Florida by a man who may have been gay himself.  Awful, just awful.

59. The news media’s early, constant coverage of Donald Trump and his long-winded rallies without much scrutiny of his record during the Republican primaries.  Are you happy now, Les Moonves?

60. The ongoing suicide crisis in the Canadian Indigenous community.  We are failing these kids.  We must do better.  We must listen to their concerns and directly address them.

61. Kurt Eichenwald.  He supported the wrong Democrat.  He’s not to be trusted.  And he’s a whiny bitch, too.

62. For the first time in about half a decade, the WWE split its roster again by putting half on Raw and half on Smackdown.  Not only that, they’ve added more championships so now each show has its own World Champion, mid-card-Champion, Tag Team Champions and Womens Champion, plus show-centric pay-per-views.  So lame.  Why return to such a failed concept?  The Raw vs. Smackdown rivalry is phony.  You all work for the same goddamn company!  No wonder your TV ratings suck so bad.

63. The failed coup in Turkey.  It gave authoritarian Erdogan every excuse to crack down on whatever democracy was still left in his troubled country.  Why hasn’t he been kicked out of NATO?

64. There wasn’t a single person of colour nominated for an acting Oscar.  Because of the public outcry, I suspect 2017 will be very different.

65. Media Matters For America going all in for a loser.  Still with Hill, jackwads?

66. Alberto Del Rio left the WWE.  Again.

67. The moral cowardice of Aung San Suu Kyi.  She doesn’t give a damn about the ruthless persecution of Rohingya Muslims in her own country.  Despicable.

68. Nat Turner and Casey Affleck are in contention for Academy Awards next year but face serious accusations of sexual assault and sexual harassment, respectively.  Turner faced a lot of scrutiny and didn’t handle it particularly well, while Affleck, a likely Best Actor nominee, just hosted Saturday Night Live and has routinely been given a free pass.  After decades of protecting Bill Cosby, the entertainment press needs to address this with Affleck directly.  Innocent lives are at stake.  Turner’s victim committed suicide.

69. The Nightly Show was cancelled just as it was finding its satirical voice in the insane world of American politics.  Comedy Central should’ve had more faith in it.

70. Bowie’s Blackstar wasn’t nominated for the Album Of The Year Grammy.  A huge, insulting oversight.

71. Muhammad Ali died.  He was an asshole to Joe Frazier but I’ll always respect his opposition to Vietnam.

72. Corey Graves and Byron Saxton at the Raw commentary table.  Absolutely no chemistry whatsoever.

73. Alan Rickman died.  He may have been a villain on-screen but he was a mensch in real life.  His public support for Rachel Corrie, an activist murdered by Apartheid Israel, should always be remembered.

74. The Wars on Drugs, Black people, Indigenous communities, trans, gay, lesbian & bisexual folks, sexual assault survivors, journalists, whistleblowers, prisoners, women, Sikhs and Muslims continues unabated.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 31, 2016
1:38 a.m.

The Highs Of 2016

1. Hillary Clinton will never be President of the United States.  When you run an incompetent, uninspired, foolhardy campaign, screw over your Democratic opponent and his left-wing supporters thanks to your corrupt political and media allies and then blame everybody else for your own neoliberal stupidity, you get what you deserve:  utter and complete humiliation.

2. Game 7 of The World Series.  One of the most competitive, unpredictable and exciting championship games not only in baseball history, but in the entire history of sports.  It is a damn shame Harry Caray never lived long enough to see his beloved Chicago Cubs end their notoriously brutal 107-year slump.  Cleveland blew it.

3. David Bowie’s Blackstar.  Released 8 days into the new year, I never heard a better album.  Poignant, cathartic, masterful.  He couldn’t have ended his recording career on a higher note.

4. OJ: Made In America.  An epic, thoroughly revelatory documentary miniseries that puts the travesty of the OJ Simpson double murder case in illuminating and often uncomfortable historical context.  Infuriatingly fascinating.

5. Mauro Ranallo joined the WWE as a play-by-play commentator.  It’s so refreshing to hear the actual names of wrestling holds being called again.  Now if only the company would find him a decent colour man instead of saddling him with three unimaginative seat fillers.  Where’s his Bobby Heenan?

6. Jerry “The King” Lawler blocked me on Twitter and no longer does colour commentary for the WWE.  This misogynistic sleaze wasn’t worth following or listening to in the first place.  He did me a favour.

7. Persecuted journalist Barrett Brown was finally released from prison.  May he continue to sing like the proverbial canary.

8. Iggy Pop’s Post Pop Depression.  You can never go wrong writing songs with Josh Homme.  Too bad he’s going to lose the Best Alternative Rock Album Grammy to Bowie’s Blackstar next year.

9. Leah Remini’s Scientology & The Aftermath series on A&E.  A fittingly skeptical companion to the excellent, eye-opening Going Clear movie I finally screened this year.  David Miscavige’s cult is in serious shit.  Time to stop treating it like a religion.  Revoke its tax-exempt status and start making indictments.

10. Portugal won Euro.  Ronaldo’s redemption 12 years in the making.

11. Roger Ailes was forced out of Fox News after being sued for sexual harassment.  Is his most famous political operation going to survive?  Let’s hope not.

12. Despite hundreds of ill-fated attempts, the CIA could not kill Fidel Castro who died of natural causes as an old man.  Will Cuba continue to fight against the scourge of imperialist capitalism?

13. Rob Riggle’s set during The Rob Lowe Roast on Comedy Central.  Absolutely killer.  The wretched Ann Coulter got it the worst.

14. Batman: The Killing Joke.  A surprisingly dark animated version of the graphic novel that deserved a more traditional and longer theatrical release.  Far superior to the disappointing Mask Of The Phantasm, it features a much stronger performance from longtime Joker Mark Hamill.  We could be spared the mercifully brief musical number, though.

15.  The #NoDAPL protest at Standing Rock in North Dakota.  A noble cause that is literally life and death for an already marginalized and brutalized Indigenous community.  We must all rally around these heroic water protectors.

16. Mohamedou Slahi was finally released from Gitmo.  The best-selling author deserves reparations and an apology for his disgusting torture at the hands of the United States government.  Absolutely shameful.

17. The Getaway by The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  They take five years now to put out new albums but the wait is always worth it.  Still funky and instantly accessible, even in middle age.

18. Corrupt, decrepit racist Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio lost his latest bid for re-election and was indicted by the Department of Justice.  The end is near for this fascist monster.  Finally.

19. The Triple Threat number one contender’s match between Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar at Fastlane.  Fantastic action despite the expected outcome.

20. Green Day’s Revolution Radio.  I’m glad Billie Joe Armstrong got sober.

21. The List Of Jericho.  Sheldon Cooper called.  He wants his funny gimmick back.  Uh oh.  I just made the list.

22. The Lazarus soundtrack.  Three more David Bowie gems.  Plus, Dexter sings!  A genuine surprise.

23. Canada won 22 medals at the Summer Olympics, 16 of which were earned by women including the hardworking soccer and rugby squads, their best effort in 20 years.  Penny Oleksiak, Andre De Grasse, Rosie McLennan and Derek Drouin were among the standout individual athletes who excelled in Brazil.

24. AJ Styles’ debuted at the Royal Rumble, feuded with Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and John Cena, and became WWE Champion.  Superstar of the year.  His Extreme Rules match with Reigns in particular was filled with entertaining spots.

25. The AIDS Crisis and Greed Is Good episodes of CNN’s The Eighties.  There remains no cure for both.

26. Weezer’s “White Album”.  Their record sales may have plummeted but Rivers Cuomo hasn’t forgotten how to craft a catchy alt-rock sing-a-long.

27. All the good films I screened this year:  The Omen (1976), Misery, The Visit, Anthony Shaffer’s The Wicker Man (first version), Ginger Snaps, Crimson Peak, Fantasia 2000, Rockshow, Elvis: That’s The Way It Is, Mission: Impossible III, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Maltese Falcon (1931), Satan Met A Lady, The Desert Trail, the original Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, the original D.O.A., the original Psycho, Monterey Pop and Shock.

28. The Miz’ passionate promo on Daniel Bryan during Talking Smack.  The most entertaining mic work he’s ever done.  The Yes Man could’ve easily shut down his argument.  He walked off the set instead.  What a mistake.  The segment may have single-handedly revived the fortunes of the InterContinental Champion.

29. Game two of the Montreal/Toronto MLS semifinal series.  The first time Canada has gotten legitimately excited about mens soccer in 30 years.  An atmospheric juggernaut with plenty of goals, rain, smoky flares and suspense.

30. The Tragically Hip’s final concert on CBC.  Bittersweet and engaging from start to finish.

31. The Tragically Hip’s Man Machine Poem.  Certainly not their best offering but if it’s their final musical statement, it will certainly suffice.  After 30 years, they’re not afraid to experiment with new sounds and ideas.

32. The term “Divas” was finally retired by the WWE.  All women who wrestle for the company are now superstars like the men.  It’s about goddamn time.

33. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair for the renamed Womens Championship at WrestleMania 32.  Incredible spots, high drama, tremendous workmanship.  It should’ve been the main event.  An honourable mention to the ladder match for the InterContinental strap.  A fine exhibition for the future of the company.

34. The hour-long debate between “Donald Trump” and “Bernie Sanders” on @Midnight.  Hilarious.

35. Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool.  More melodic elegance as Thom Yorke beautifully mourns the end of his relationship to Rachel Owen who sadly died of cancer this year.

36. Kevin Owens.  Bam Bam Bigelow without the tattoos and better promos.  His elevation to the main event in just two years is a testament to his considerable skill as a performer.  And he’s Canadian.

37. Braun Strowman.  Turns out he’s much more effective without Bray Wyatt.  And he might be the fastest big man in the business today.  A monster heel with great potential.  He looks like he belongs.

38. WikiLeaks.  The #DNCLeaks and the #PodestaEmails exposed The Democratic Party for what it actually is:  cynical, snobby, clueless and neoliberal.

39. Watching Blu-rays for the first time.  Man, oh man, what a world of wonder I’ve been missing.  Thanks Mom and Dad!

40. The guy from Edmonton who found an escaped cat under a train and took him home before reuniting him with his relieved owner from Saskatchewan.  A Festivus miracle.

41. Hot Hot Heat’s final album.  A hooky farewell from one of Vancouver’s finest.

42. Nancy Grace’s Headline News show was finally cancelled.  Even CNN can’t stand her anymore.

43. The Last Man Standing match between Kevin Owens & Dean Ambrose at the Royal Rumble for the InterContinental title.  It’s no wonder Owens is World Champion on Raw now.  Stellar.

44. Kings Of Leon’s Walls which stands for We Are Like Love Songs.  It should be doing brisker business.  Not a bad song in the mix.

45. Smackdown started broadcasting live.  No more spoilers leaking out days in advance.

46. Billy Talent’s Afraid Of Heights.  Punchy and political at times, rocking and rolling all of the time.

47. Tom Mulcair was given a no-confidence vote by the NDP.  He was never a true socialist.

48. Bernie Sanders’ historic campaign for President, the most successful Jewish candidate in American history.  If it wasn’t for the Clintonistas, he would be moving into the White House next month.  They screwed him like the ignorant assholes they are.

49. Brooke Henderson won a major LPGA tournament as a teenager.  More success coming in 2017?  Let’s hope so.

50. Milos Raonic made the Wimbledon finals, a first for a Canadian tennis player.  Too bad he didn’t win.

51. The Golden State Warriors record-setting regular season win-loss record.  Unfortunately, Cleveland came from behind to snag the NBA Championship from them in the finals.  LeBron James will not be denied.

52. Mark Rylance upset Sylvester Stallone for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  Score one for the anti-Zionists.

53. Dean Ambrose cut up Chris Jericho’s silly Lite Brite jacket.  The Scarf Era has begun.  Drink it in, man.

54. Every Womens Championship match on Raw between Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair.  The best TV rivalry of the year.  I don’t understand why the WWE doesn’t allow The Boss a longer title run.  She deserves one.

55. Pearl Jam is going into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame next year.

56. The #CureForKenza campaign.  This adorable little girl has a second chance at life.  May she make the most of it and thoroughly enjoy her childhood.

57. San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem protest.  It’s a shitty, racist song and we don’t need to hear it anymore.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, December 30, 2016
11:41 p.m.

What Daniel Bryan Should’ve Said To The Miz

Last week, Talking Smack lived up to its name.  Airing right after Smackdown Live every Tuesday night on The WWE Network, the show allows wrestlers a chance to further their storylines outside of the ring and vent if they so desire.  (They must’ve gotten the idea from The Talking Dead, the wrap-up show that follows The Walking Dead on AMC.)

During last week’s broadcast, The Miz was a guest.  One of the hosts, Daniel Bryan, made a pointed criticism about his in-ring work.  The former four-time World Champion claimed that the current InterContinental Champion was “soft” (or did he mean “sawft”?) and that he seemed less than eager to take bumps, particularly punches to the face.  He bluntly called him a “coward”.

In the past, when he was knocked for any number of reasons, The Miz would simply laugh off and diminish such negative views as the work of “haters”.  He even turned it into a T-shirt.  In all the years I’ve been watching him in the WWE, he has never let this get to him.

But judging by his ferocious reaction on Talking Smack, Bryan clearly touched a nerve.  Shaking so much with rage, The Miz passionately defended himself, claiming in his decade-long run with the WWE, he had never gotten seriously hurt.  He went on to hammer Bryan for telling the fans he would return but then retiring instead.

The Yes Man had a very good reason for ending his pro wrestling career, as Miz well knows.  He accumulated so many concussions, among other serious injuries, the WWE would no longer clear him to wrestle.  As he noted to The Miz, he would be back if the company would let him.

That wasn’t good enough for the star of Christmas Bounty.  The Miz suggested that if he was serious about coming back, he’d return to the “bingo halls” where he got his start.  Sticking the proverbial knife ever deeper, the IC Champ claimed that he loves the WWE fans (he’s currently a self-absorbed heel) and would make his title (which he has won on four previous occasions) mean something again.  (Bryan’s last title run in 2015 was with the same belt.)

Daniel Bryan eventually walked off the set which added even more fuel to The Miz’s venom.  With a very noticeable vein bulging out of his shiny forehead, he pointed out the obvious.  When vigourously challenged, ironically, Bryan was the one who showed fear.

But was The Miz right about everything else he said?  Is his “safe” style of wrestling, as Bryan derisively called it, the best way to work?

Bryan could’ve easily demolished his argument but because he abandoned this heated conversation while an agitated Miz was still lashing out at him in mid-sentence he missed a glorious opportunity to do so.  There are so many things he could’ve said instead of just walking away in disgust.

First off, he could’ve asked the IC Champ if he had ever had a classic match?  The Miz would probably respond with his two main event matches with John Cena for the WWE Championship back in 2011.  To which Bryan would’ve noted that his match with Cena at SummerSlam 2013 was better than both of them put together.

Miz would’ve countered that he was Champion that night for just a few minutes thanks to Randy Orton cashing in his Money In The Bank briefcase with a big assist from Triple H.  Bryan would’ve reminded him that the only reason he remained WWE Champion at WrestleMania 27 is because of The Rock.  And that Miz only became the champion in the first place because he cashed in his own MITB briefcase on a fallen Orton during a November episode of Monday Night Raw in 2010.  The only way he was able to keep the title in a 2011 Royal Rumble rematch with The Viper is because of the interference of CM Punk.

Miz would likely go on to mock Bryan for losing the World Heavyweight Championship to Sheamus in the opening match of WrestleMania 28 in less than 20 seconds, to which Bryan would note that his loss led to his eventual babyface push as the fans began enthusiastically chanting “Yes!”, his once purposefully obnoxious catchphrase, in protest that night.  When Miz would take credit for that success, as he did in an interview in 2012, Bryan would argue that despite his love of the fans, they didn’t love The Miz back during his own ill-fated, mercifully brief babyface turn.

The Yes Man could list a whole slew of great matches in his career.  A Money In The Bank ladder match in 2011 (which led to his first world title push), the 2012 Elimination Chamber match for the WHC, the three WWE title bouts on pay-per-view with CM Punk (including one that featured Kane) during the Spring and Summer of 2012, his Royal Rumble 2014 match with Bray Wyatt and that stellar encounter with Triple H at WrestleMania 30 which directly led to him regaining the WWE Championship in a 3-way with Orton and Batista in the main event of that same show.  Both encounters lasted 30 minutes apiece. Could The Miz have accomplished any of this with his “safer” approach?

Bottom line, Daniel Bryan can easily say he had more memorable, important matches in his six years in the WWE than The Miz has had in his entire career even if he did suffer serious physical setbacks that ended his wonderfully inspiring run all too quickly.

As for the IC Champ’s assertion that he’s never been seriously hurt, I can think of two instances where things went wrong at his expense.  The original finish of the Cena match at WrestleMania 27 ended in a double count-out where Miz hit the back of his head hard on the concrete while taking a bump at ringside.  If memory serves, I do believe he suffered a concussion from that.

And then, there was the Raw match he had with Kofi Kingston where he got struck so forcefully with the Trouble In Paradise (basically a spinning kick to the head), you could hear the loud thump of the impact.  Miz looked dazed for a bit after he was pinned.

Interestingly, if Bryan had brought up these instances during their Talking Smack interview, Miz could’ve used them as proof he can take a serious bump and not lose his spot.  To which Bryan would’ve instantly countered that these were rare, unfortunate accidents and he doesn’t handle genuinely safe but tough-looking bumps on a regular basis.

On this week’s Smackdown Live, The Miz delivered another blistering heat-seeking promo that seemed slightly inspired by CM Punk’s brilliant “pipe bomb” promo in 2011.  Once again sounding very defensive, especially when he was booed, he talked about how great a team player he is for WWE.  Whenever the company needs him for PR work, he’s there, dignity be damned.

Daniel Bryan’s promised direct response to last week’s Talking Smack segment, on the other hand, was a huge letdown.  Bryan and The Miz never actually had a follow-up face-to-face encounter which is baffling.  In fact, as Bryan noted on this week’s Talking Smack, it was decided by WWE management to keep them apart on-camera from this point forward.  (Ridiculous.  Talk about poor creative judgment.)  For his part, Bryan apologized for abandoning co-host Renee Young during a hot segment and for pissing off The Miz, although on Smackdown Live, it was more than clear he stands by his original criticisms, as he should.

It’s such a shame he didn’t go further last week because had he done so, he would’ve won the argument.  Handily.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
7:34 p.m.

Published in: on August 31, 2016 at 7:34 pm  Comments (2)  

Chris Rocks The 2016 Oscars As Spotlight & Mark Rylance Pull Off Big Upsets

Poor Sylvester Stallone.  The Creed star was considered a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actor at this year’s Academy Awards, the 88th annual ceremony.  But alas, like Eddie Murphy in 2007, despite collecting numerous trophies for reviving Rocky Balboa for his seventh silver screen appearance, he was ultimately passed over for British Shakespearean actor Mark Rylance who took home the only Oscar for Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed Bridge Of Spies.  How delightfully ironic that a pro-Palestinian activist snatched one away from a longtime supporter of Apartheid Israel.

Speaking of Zionists, Leonardo DiCaprio finally took home a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in The Revenant.  He thanked Michael Caton-Jones, who cast him in the underappreciated This Boy’s Life, and longtime collaborator Martin Scorsese, who directed him in Gangs Of New York, The Aviator, Shutter Island, The Wolf Of Wall Street & The Departed, while also making a public plea for powerful people to finally do something about global warming.  When talking about indigenous people, it’s a shame he didn’t mention the long illegally occupied Palestinians.  But he’s for Apartheid Israel so they were ignored, as usual.

Last year’s Best Director winner Alejandro G. Inarritu won again for helming The Revenant while lensman Emmanuel Lubezki made history becoming the first Best Cinematography winner to snatch the gong three consecutive years.  He won last year for Birdman and in 2014, he received his first Oscar for Gravity.

Mad Max: Fury Road, the fourth and best reviewed chapter in the recently revived franchise (which laid dormant for 30 years), took home six trinkets, the most of any nominated film, all in technical categories:  Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Make-Up & Hairstyling, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.  It was the Star Wars of this year’s Oscars.

Speaking of The Force Awakens, as expected, like The Martian, Carol and Brooklyn, it was completely shut out.  Nominated composer John Williams, however, got a couple of shout-outs from C3P0 and Best Original Score winner, the legendary Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight), despite having a hilariously bad seating arrangement.  Having 5 golden gongs for creating some of the greatest movie music ever doesn’t mean anything, apparently.  Even the bear from The Revenant got to sit in the balcony.  (A killer sight gag, by the way.  He seems much nicer than his on-screen character.)

Best Supporting Actress went to the lovely Swedish-born performer Alicia Vikander from The Danish Girl while Best Actress was awarded to the glammed up Brie Larson for her acclaimed work in Room.  Larson thanked the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals for giving the film an early boost before its theatrical run.  (It’s out on DVD & Blu-ray this coming Tuesday as is the aforementioned Creed.) (UPDATE: The Danish Girl is out on home video Tuesday, as well.)

Besides Mark Rylance’s remarkable upset for Best Supporting Actor, Best Picture did not go to The Revenant as anticipated but to Spotlight, the highly regarded drama about the Boston Globe investigative team that helped expose some of the darkest secrets of the Catholic Church.  Spotlight also won for Best Original Screenplay.  The film ended up winning the first and last awards of the evening.

Far more predictable were the winners of Best Documentary Feature, Best Animated Feature and Best Foreign Language Film.  Amy, about the troubled Amy Winehouse, Inside Out, the hugely popular Pixar film, and the Hungarian Holocaust drama Son Of Saul won those categories, respectively.

Other big winners included The Big Short which won Best Adapted Screenplay and a slimmed down, bearded Sam Smith (Chris Rock humourously mistook him for George Michael) whose forgettable James Bond theme, Writing’s On The Wall from Spectre, stole the glory away from Lada Gaga’s Til It Happens To You, the theme she co-wrote with the highly decorated Diane Warren from the anti-campus rape culture documentary The Hunting Ground.  Gaga’s passionate but overwrought performance, which received a standing ovation and movingly featured a number of male & female survivors on stage with handwritten messages on their arms, was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden who also got an undeserved standing ovation, an ironic choice considering his reputation for being overly handsy with women.  He got in a plug for the It’s On Us campaign launched by the White House last year.

As for host Chris Rock, much to my surprise, he was much sharper and funnier this year than his previous hosting gig back in 2005.  The #OscarsSoWhite controversy proved to be, for the most part, a comedy goldmine for him as he took some very funny shots at a good-natured Kevin Hart (I was surprised he didn’t get him back), interviewed black filmgoers in a comically effective pre-taped spot, had mostly funny presenter intros, a great running gag involving a Suge Knight imposter in the balcony and threw to a Black History Month segment with Angela Bassett pulling an amusing swerve on the boycotting Will Smith.  Not every joke in his monologue hit the mark but most of them did.  I particularly enjoyed the Girl Scout Cookies segment which revealed that Hollywood stars are always too hungry at the Oscars and carry around way too much cash.  Rock’s berating of DiCaprio and his kiss-off to Harvey Weinstein, in particular, were stand-out laugh out loud moments.

The best musical performance did not come from any of the overly orchestrated & ultimately underwhelming Best Original Songs, which only featured the overrated big-name nominees anyway, but from Dave Grohl whose low-key acoustic rendition of The Beatles’ Blackbird, a sly choice (Paul McCartney wrote it as a tribute to the black civil rights movement in the late 60s), nicely accompanied the traditional In Memoriam segment which began with Wes Craven and ended with Leonard Nimoy.  For once, the audience didn’t applaud until the very end.  Even cheekier was the song that played over the closing credits.  It was Public Enemy’s Fight The Power from Do The Right Thing.

The complete list of winners:

BEST PICTURE – SPOTLIGHT

BEST DIRECTOR – Alejandro G. Inarritu (THE REVENANT)

BEST ACTOR – Leonardo DiCaprio (THE REVENANT)

BEST ACTRESS – Brie Larson (ROOM)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Alicia Vikander (THE DANISH GIRL)

BEST SUPPPORTING ACTOR – Mark Rylance (BRIDGE OF SPIES)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – SPOTLIGHT

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – THE BIG SHORT

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – INSIDE OUT

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – AMY

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – SON OF SAUL

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Writing’s On The Wall (SPECTRE)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – Ennio Morricone (THE HATEFUL EIGHT)

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

BEST MAKE-UP & HAIRSTYLING – MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

BEST FILM EDITING – MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

BEST SOUND EDITING – MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

BEST SOUND MIXING – MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – EX MACHINA

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – THE REVENANT

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT – A GIRL IN THE RIVER: THE PRICE OF FORGIVENESS

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – BEAR STORY

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – STUTTERER

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, Feburary 29, 2016
1:50 a.m.

Published in: on February 29, 2016 at 1:51 am  Leave a Comment  

2015 Oscars Wrap-Up

Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash were the big winners at the 87th annual Academy Awards.  Collectively, they took home almost half of the 24 awards up for grabs.

Birdman’s Alejandro G. Inarritu ended up personally collecting three of the four gongs his universally praised film won in the three-and-a-half hour ceremony.  Besides snapping up the expected Best Director trophy, he shared the Best Original Screenplay award with three other screenwriters as Birdman also went on to unseat early frontrunner Boyhood for Best Picture.  The film also won for its cinematography.

Also winning four Oscars was Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel which took golden dust collectors for Best Costume Design, Best Make-Up & Hairstyling, Best Production Design and Best Original Score.

As expected, Farmers Insurance pitchman J.K. Simmons won Best Supporting Actor in the event’s first presentation for his much praised performance in the sleeper film Whiplash which surprisingly won additional honours for Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing.

Other surefire winners included Citizenfour which was named Best Documentary Feature, the Polish Holocaust-themed Ida which grabbed the Best Foreign Language Film trinket, writer Graham Moore whose penning of The Imitation Game was named Best Adapted Screenplay, Julianne Moore who, after four previously failed attempts at winning an Academy Award, finally won Best Actress for playing a woman with Alzheimer’s in Still Alice, and John Legend & Common whose original song Glory was Selma’s only triumph.  Their live performance was the only one of the nominated songs to receive a standing ovation.  The film’s overlooked lead, British actor David Oyelowo who played MLK, was moved to tears.

Despite the number of predictable winners, there were some surprises.  Big Hero 6 upset How To Train Your Dragon 2 for Best Animated Feature and a clearly tickled Eddie Redmayne wrestled Best Actor away from Birdman’s Michael Keaton for his portrayal of legendary scientist Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything.

In the end, each of the eight nominated Best Pictures got at least one trophy.  Patricia Arquette ended up getting the only one for Richard Linklater’s experimental epic Boyhood.  She was named Best Supporting Actress.  (The complete list of winners is at the bottom of this piece.)

As for the Oscar telecast itself, a special request to the Academy.  Don’t ask Neil Patrick Harris to host again.  Most of his one-liners were turkeys, his opening song with an unfunny Jack Black and surprisingly tuneful Anna Kendrick was more hit than miss (the background visuals were cool, though), his interaction with seat fillers was time-filling pointlessness, his specially protected predictions bit was nothing more than a lame way to recap highlights of the show, and his quip after Citizenfour’s triumph was despicable, outrageous and deeply offensive.  Edward Snowden isn’t a “traitor”, asshole.  The tasteless line took some luster away from Oscar-winner Laura Poitras’ greatest professional moment.  Fuck you for saying it.  In fact, you should apologize for doing so.

Families became a recurring theme of the acceptance speeches after Whiplash star J.K. Simmons sweetly thanked his wife and “above average” kids.  Another welcome thread was politics.  Citizenfour director Laura Poitras noted the dangers of mass surveillance while rightly thanking NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and truth tellers just like him for exposing criminal wrongdoing.  (What a shame that journalist Glenn Greenwald, who held Poitras’ Oscar while she spoke, didn’t get to layeth the smackethdown on the candy asses of the Obama Administration.  Like the live performance of that Lego Movie song, that would’ve been awesome.)

Despite having a cheat sheet, Boyhood’s Patricia Arquette got a rousing response when she ended her speech with a plea for equal pay and rights for women.  Charming Imitation Game screenwriter Graham Moore revealed he attempted suicide when he was just a teenager and urged those who feel different to “stay weird”.  A deeply poignant moment that was only eclipsed by the powerful comments both Common and John Legend made about mass incarceration and the continuing struggle for black equality.

Despite being a terrible host, Neil Patrick Harris did have some funny moments.  His opening line about the Oscars being the “whitest” was welcome as was his failed attempt to get Robert Duvall’s attention.  But without question, the funniest part of the program was all the Travolta material.  The former Sweathog was a pretty good sport about his famous mistake butchering Frozen singer Idina Mitzel’s name last year.  But he got a little too handsy with her face when they presented an award together.  (At least he got it right this time.)  Thankfully, Harris got an additional laugh out of that.  Also amusing was Alejandro Inarritu’s claim during one of his numerous acceptance speeches that he was wearing Michael Keaton’s tighty whities for good luck.  During one of his more serious moments, he pleaded for more respect for Mexican-American immigrants and especially for his fellow countrymen back home.

As for my predictions scorecard, I went a disappointing 12 for 24.  Had I gone with Big Hero 6 (my initial guess for Best Animated Feature) before ultimately settling on How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Birdman for Best Picture (instead of Boyhood, although I did say Birdman was in the running), had I taken a chance on Eddie Redmayne (who, to be fair, I did say was a potential spoiler) and had I not picked Interstellar for so many technical wins (it only took Best Visual Effects), I would’ve had a better evening.

The complete list of winners:

BEST PICTURE – BIRDMAN

BEST DIRECTOR – Alejandro G. Inarritu (BIRDMAN)

BEST ACTRESS – Julianne Moore (STILL ALICE)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS –  Patricia Arquette (BOYHOOD)

BEST ACTOR – Eddie Redmayne (THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – J.K. Simmons (WHIPLASH)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Alejandro G. Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. & Armando Bo (BIRDMAN)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Graham Moore (THE IMITATION GAME)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – CITIZENFOUR

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – IDA

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – BIG HERO 6

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – INTERSTELLAR

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – BIRDMAN

BEST MAKE-UP & HAIRSTYLING – THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

BEST FILM EDITING – WHIPLASH

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – Alexandre Desplat (THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Glory (SELMA)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

BEST SOUND MIXING – WHIPLASH

BEST SOUND EDITING – AMERICAN SNIPER

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – FEAST

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – CRISIS HOTLINE: VETERANS PRESS 1

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – THE PHONE CALL

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 23, 2015
1:13 a.m.

Published in: on February 23, 2015 at 1:14 am  Leave a Comment  

The Forgotten Influence Of MuchMusic

For almost 15 years, my Dad was obsessed with taping music videos.  He actually kept track of every single one he ever recorded on Beta & VHS by writing them all down on these tiny pieces of three-ring paper that he kept in this tiny brown binder.  The list was alphabetized by artist.  Under each name were the video titles (not always the correct ones) and the corresponding cassette(s) they were recorded on.  Some were recorded multiple times because he either loved them so much or just wanted to record right to the end of a blank tape.  (In 2004, most of them (we’re talking hundreds of tapes) were finally thrown out after years of collecting dust.)

When he started doing this in the early 80s, he would set the timer for programs like Friday Night Videos on NBC and City Limits on a local Toronto station called City TV.  Hosted by aspiring songwriter Christopher Ward (and occasionally featuring a young comic named Mike Myers), City Limits aired every Saturday & Sunday in the wee hours of the morning.  Every episode was six hours long.

The mix of performers pantomiming to their singles was always eclectic.  In between videos featuring mainstream acts like Phil Collins & Pat Benatar were more cutting edge outfits like Depeche Mode and Siouxsie & The Banshees.  Looking back, it’s amazing the show was able to showcase so many different clips during their epic weekend broadcasts.  There weren’t many videos being produced during this period.

So you can only imagine how initially thrilled my Dad was when MuchMusic launched on August 31, 1984.  Unfortunately, The Nation’s Music Station began as a Pay-TV service (my Dad wasn’t going to give our local cable company more dough) so, he only taped videos during their free preview weekends, a semi-regular sales tactic employed to attract more subscribers.

Just a few years later, Much became part of our regular cable package.  And every day until the fall of 1995, Dad was constantly watching hoping to catch something he hadn’t already recorded before.  When he wasn’t watching, he asked me to take over so he wouldn’t miss anything.

Of all the video shows Much aired in its early years, there was only one he couldn’t miss:  the Hostess Sneak Previews.  Usually hosted by Steve Anthony, a blond, curly-haired goofball who drove my Dad nuts, it was the best place to see the latest clips.  Even after the cancellation of CBC shows like Video Hits & Good Rockin’ Tonight and another City-TV program called Toronto Rocks, among numerous others, he would continue to suffer through Anthony’s “paper hell” schtick (there were no teleprompters) just to add the newest titles to his growing collection.  (He must’ve taped tens of thousands of clips over the years.)

I’m not sure now why Dad lost interest in them altogether, but about a decade later, MuchMusic itself would drastically cut back on fully honouring this part of its mandate.  For most of the first half of its existence, with the exception of Erica Ehm’s Fashion Notes, every program it aired dealt exclusively with music.  Besides the regular hours devoted to random videos, there were specialty shows devoted to specific genres:  Outlaws & Heroes (Country), Rap City (Hip Hop), X-Tendamix (Dance), Soul In The City (R&B), Clip Trip (International), Pepsi Power Hour (Heavy Metal), MushMusic (Adult Contemporary), French Kiss (French Canadian), Indie Street (unsigned bands), The Wedge, The Punk Show and the revamped City Limits (Alternative Rock) and the Coca-Cola Countdown (Pop).

On Saturday nights, there were the Big Ticket Concerts.  On Saturday afternoons, there was the all-request show R.S.V.P. (Requested Songs for Video Play), which was spun off into Daily R.S.V.P. during weekday broadcasts.  There was Much West (featuring Terry David Mulligan with his giant cellphone covering Canadian music on the West Coast) and Much East (the two Mikes covering the East Coast).  There was the daily artist Spotlight which featured videos & interview excerpts of the biggest names in the business, past and present.  And then, on Mondays, there was the MuchMusicMovie which only featured musicals like Quadrophenia and Purple Rain.

Today, as Much celebrates its 30th Anniversary, only two of these shows remain on the air:  the weekly Countdown (minus its original sponsor) and the Much Movie (which isn’t restricted to music-themed features or a specific day any more).  (FEBRUARY 22, 2016 CORRECTION:  Actually, they still do Spotlight every Monday night at 6 p.m.  Hostess Sneak Previews is now Brand New Shit.  Instead of Rap City, there’s simply Hip Hop.  The Wedge is now just Alternative.  There are shows dedicated to EDM and dance music.  And Back Trax is now the three-hour Throwback Thursday.)  Yes, they still play videos for a couple hours every afternoon.  But for the most part, today’s Much is nothing like yesterday’s MuchMusic.  There are far more sitcoms, dramas and reality shows, totally unrelated to music, dominating its daily schedule.  (FEBRUARY 22, 2016 CORRECTION:  While it’s true that Much only plays between 2 to 3 hours of videos in the early afternoon, they’re also playing videos between 6 and 9 p.m. on weeknights.)

It’s sad, really.  When Moses Znaimer, the founder of both Much and City-TV, ran things, the channel mattered.  There was a serious mission to honour not just music in general, but Canadian musicians specifically.  MuchMusic went out of its way to push homegrown talent like Platinum Blonde, The Tragically Hip, The Northern Pikes, Jann Arden, Sloan, Alannah Myles (who found great success collaborating with Christopher Ward), Chalk Circle, I Mother Earth, 54-40, The Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, The Tea Party and countless others to national success, while existing stars like Neil Young and Rush continued to flourish.

Thanks to its VideoFact program (since renamed MuchFact) which helped fund videos for indie acts, bands like The Pursuit Of Happiness, Moist, Maestro Fresh-Wes and The Age Of Electric were all able to get major label deals.  French Canadian performers like Celine Dion, Roch Voisine and Mitsou would’ve never broken out of Quebec without the nationwide platform that the channel provided for them.  And because Much was dedicated to breaking acts from various genres, Shania Twain, Alanis Morissette and The Rankin Family were all able to build their own audiences through the excessive airings of their respective videos.

In the last decade or so, it’s hard to think of Much as the influential tastemaker it once prided itself on being.  Beyond the breakout successes of Billy Talent, Sam Roberts, Metric & The Arcade Fire in the early Aughts, the channel is now far more interested in promoting Fresh Prince & Simpsons reruns and teen sudsers like Degrassi than pushing the next great Canadian act.  (Sorry but Hedley, Michael Buble, Carly Rae Jepsen & Justin Bieber just don’t count.)

To be fair, Much’s decline isn’t entirely its own fault.  Part of the problem, of course, is the Internet.  Thanks to YouTube and countless imitators, music fans can become their own video programmers by simply scouring extensive lists of clips online at their leisure and playing them in an instant.  Since the channel rarely plays classic videos from the past anymore (FEBRUARY 22, 2016 CORRECTION:  As noted earlier, they do play old clips on Throwback Thursday), if one wanted to see, say, Killing Joke’s Love Like Blood right this second, one could do so right now with absolutely no difficulty (as long as one has a fast ISP).  And if one was desperate to see something brand new that’s just been released, well, it wouldn’t take one long to find that clip online, as well.

But what’s lost in that process are passionate TV programmers and VJs urging you to check out an artist or a band you’ve never heard of who they think you’ll really dig and follow for years to come.  There’s no steering you towards the dangerous, the exciting and the unexpected any more.  (Yes, Much has videos on its website but it’s really not the same.)

In fact, when Much does play videos during their afternoon Videoflows, there are no VJs introducing them at all.  It’s up to you to find out more about the current artists they still bother to play.  Unfortunately, few of them are worth caring about.  (What the hell happened to rock and roll?  Is it truly dead?)

Today’s music fans have a plethora of choices when it comes to seeing videos on the Internet.  During my childhood, there was no on-demand, only request shows and no guarantee of that request being granted on-air.  (I was able to get a Rush video played on Toronto Rocks once when Christopher Ward guest hosted, though.)

Still, it was fantastic to watch a channel that played nothing but videos for hours and hours, exposing you to a world of music you never knew existed, reminding you of established acts you had forgotten about and introducing you to artists who would become lifelong favourites.  (It’s why my Dad became a major fan of the Crash Test Dummies.)

As it celebrates 30 years on the air in Canada, that’s the MuchMusic I wish still existed.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
2:01 a.m.

CORRECTION:  City Limits was actually six hours long, not five like I originally wrote.  The correct running time for the program has been added to the original text.  My memory is not as good as I thought it was.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, August 29, 2014
2:33 a.m.

Published in: on August 26, 2014 at 2:02 am  Comments (2)  

Questions For Edward Snowden

Two nights ago, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams introduced highlights of his pre-taped interview in Russia with exiled NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in a prime-time special.  The 30-year-old American patriot came off just as well as he did nearly a year ago when he faced similar questions from then-Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald in a Hong Kong hotel room.  As always, the Obama Administration & its allies in the intelligence community should be very worried.  He’s the best living argument against their unconstitutional agenda.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of important questions Williams didn’t ask:

1. Why didn’t you leak to WikiLeaks?

2. Don’t you miss your girlfriend?

3. What other secret mass surveillance programs are currently operational at the NSA that we don’t know about that we should know about?

4. How many prominent opponents of the Obama Administration, who don’t actually pose a threat to national security, are specifically being targeted by the NSA?

5. Do you regret revealing your identity publicly before reaching your intended destination of Latin America in order to achieve a more permanent political asylum?

6. It was reported that you originally did not approve of Chelsea Manning’s leaking of classified documents to WikiLeaks.  First, is that true, and second, if so, when & why did you change your mind about her whistleblowing?

7. Are you worried about publicly criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian policies (blogger registration law, secret mass surveillance) too much to the point where it affects your asylum status?

8. If you do make it back to America & not face any jail time or real consequences, what do you hope to do career-wise?

9. Based on what you’ve seen & experienced as an intelligence analyst, instructor & spy, is it really possible to rein in the NSA’s astounding technological capabilities with legislation alone?

10. Why does the NSA view critics of the Obama Administration as “adversaries” on par with “terrorists” when they’re not breaking the law?

11. Do you fear for your life in Russia?

12. How much secret NSA material is overclassified as such, ballpark percentage-wise?

13. Is the NSA secretly spying on President Obama & Vice President Biden or any other public officials like sitting members of the Senate, the House Of Representatives and the Supreme Court?

14. Are you prepared to spend the rest of your life in Russia if necessary?

15. Do you think the President should be impeached for supporting these secret mass surveillance programs purely on the basis that they violate the 4th Amendment?

16. Do you support the War On Terror?

17. How did you determine what classified material to steal and what not to steal?

18. Do you think the National Security State can survive in its current form despite the growing international backlash to its secret mass surveillance programs?

19. When did the NSA’s focus on terror expand to protest groups, other types of criminals (drug dealers, for instance) & foreign commercial enterprises?

20. Do you feel you & the journalists who have written all these articles about these documents you leaked are doing enough to combat the misinformation spread about the information, them & yourself by Obama officials and their sympathetic media allies?

21. Do you think President Obama’s Insider Threat Program, initiated in the aftermath of the Chelsea Manning leaks, will have any kind of deterring effect on future potential government whistleblowers?

22. Are you disappointed that Democratic Representative & 60s civil rights activist John Lewis doesn’t support your whistleblowing?

23. Do you think the “Restore The 4th”, “Stop The NSA” & “Reset The Net” movements will ultimately succeed despite the significant pushback from Obama and the intelligence community?

24. Were you surprised at how easy it was to take all those documents without detection?

25. In your estimation, is the American public sufficiently angry enough over these revelations?  What about the rest of the world?

26. Do you think the reform movement in general can sustain itself beyond the stories about your disclosures & the Obama Presidency?

27. Isn’t it only a matter of time before the NSA is able to break through all forms of encryption no matter how strong it keeps getting?

28. What was wrong with season 2 of The Wire?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, May 30, 2014
2:34 a.m.

Published in: on May 30, 2014 at 2:34 am  Comments (2)  

How The Real Suey Park Is Just As Ignorant As The Fake Stephen Colbert

It’s so easy to be ignorant.  All you have to do is act without reason or compassion.

Last week, Suey Park did just that.

The 23-year-old Korean-American activist ordered her more than 20000 Twitter followers to make her hashtag – #CancelColbert – a trending topic by including it in their own tweets.  As a result, the campaign attracted massive online media attention.  (Salon.com posted no less than seven articles about it on their site alone.)

Now why did Park want to cancel The Colbert Report?  Because of this joke posted on the show’s official Twitter account.  (Both were eventually deleted.)

She found it offensive, arguing that fighting racism with more racism is still racism.  (The joke was taken from a segment mocking Washington Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder and his insultingly named charity, The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.  Native American groups have been trying unsuccessfully to convince him to change the name of the team.  His response has been to half-heartedly pander to them in the most insensitive manner imaginable.)

First of all, who made her the spokesman of what is and isn’t acceptable satire?  Second of all, if only her simple logic were so persuasive.

Throughout the last several decades, numerous comedians and actors have used the language of racists in order to discredit and make fun of their dangerously false ideologies.  It’s always a risky technique.  If your pointed barbs don’t get laughs, the audience can easily turn on you.  But when done effectively, they’re laughing and thinking simultaneously.  Comedic satire is always at its best when it clicks on multiple levels.  It’s not meant to be taken literally, obviously.  Ms. Park knows that despite struggling mightily to be successfully satirical herself.  (Choosing “Angry Asian Woman” as your Twitter name and then proceeding to be just that in interview after interview is clearly missing the point.)

Consider All In The Family.  Its lead character was Archie Bunker who regularly insulted his Polish-American son-in-law Michael by calling him a “dumb Polack” even though he was a thoughtful Liberal.  Archie made numerous remarks about various ethnicities that were often offensive (his reference to Latinos and African-Americans as “spics and spades” in the pilot, for instance).  But because the character was inarticulate and clueless (he frequently misused words and employed distorted reasoning without any self-awareness), and his terminal grumpiness (he was rarely kind to his long-suffering wife Edith), he was a hilarious self-parody, an artificial, uninformed object of deserved derision.  Not unlike Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Also consider stand-ups like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle, Patton Oswalt and Chris Rock who’ve often used racially charged language to make broader points in their own comedic social commentaries.  Or how about Nigger Hatin’ Hat, a recurring song parody heard on The Howard Stern Show which knocks former rival Don Imus’ awful treatment of black people?  Or Throw The Jew Down The Well, the song Jewish-British performance artist Sasha Baron Cohen convinced unsuspecting white Americans in a bar to sing along with as Borat on his old Da Ali G Show?

Stephen Colbert is part of this rich anti-racist comic tradition.  The Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report, as Ms. Park also knows, is the satirical version, a know-nothing conservative pundit specifically designed to emulate the closed-minded, anti-science paranoia of Fox News Channel types like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and longtime radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh.  He’s a carefully designed buffoon meant to savagely eviscerate all of their one-dimensional perspectives while being blissfully unaware that he’s even doing so in the first place.

Since the show’s inception in 2005, the fake Colbert has dove headfirst into race.  (The Ching Chong Ding Dong schtick that got him in trouble with Ms. Park and company was one of the first gags he did.  It was resurrected in 2011 when Limbaugh foolishly attempted a fake Chinese accent during his radio show while describing the then-Chinese leader Hu Jintao.)  It’s one of many complex subjects he and his writing staff have been fearlessly mining for material four days a week for almost a decade to much acclaim and popularity.

So when Ms. Park and her followers decided to take him on for one anti-racist joke they didn’t care for (out of probably many more they could’ve chosen from), it was a clear mismatch right from the start.  When Colbert dedicated an entire show to the controversy, he effectively killed off any momentum the misguided campaign had left at that point by cleverly and humourously mixing his real thoughts on Park herself (he wisely told her jerkiest critics to stop harassing and threatening her on Twitter and to let her speak her mind) with the fake Colbert’s obliviousness on his own undetected bigotry (“white American male is neutral”).

He also slyly noted that Michelle Malkin, the frequent Fox News contributor who once wrote a book defending the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War 2 (she is Filipino, by the way), has enthusiastically supported #CancelColbert, a rather uncomfortable fact Park’s supporters haven’t seemed too eager to mention.  Park herself has been silent on the subject.

Shortly after Colbert’s rebuttal, Park was interviewed by Salon.com.  Despite what the increasingly out-of-touch Bob Somerby over at The Daily Howler would love to believe, the young activist has no one to blame but herself for her pitiful performance.  That said, even he couldn’t deny the “rambling” nature of her often contradictory, nonsensical comments.

Late last year when Park’s #NotYourAsianSidekick Twitter campaign started to catch fire she told one interviewer how surprised she was that it ever became popular at all.  I suspect she is even more surprised by all the attention #CancelColbert received this year.  As a result, because she now claims she didn’t actually want the show to be cancelled (she says she’s a fan but it doesn’t sound like she’s a regular viewer), when the media asked her what the point of it all was, she hasn’t done a very good job of fully explaining her true motives.

If she didn’t want The Colbert Report yanked off the air, what did she want exactly?  Beyond her basic I-don’t-like-it-when-white-liberals-use-racist-language-to-knock-racism talking point, she won’t say.  In fact, at least two interviewers have been scolded for even trying to get more answers out of her, most notably Huffington Post Live’s Jeff Zepps.  (She told him it was a “loaded question” when he asked her why she singled out Colbert.)

In the Salon interview, she told Prachi Gupta that she was more interested in the “reaction and conversation” she “was trying to create” rather than having her (and us, for that matter) fully “understand my context” which doesn’t make any sense.  When someone launches a public campaign to cancel a TV show it’s clear they’re more interested in censorship than actual dialogue.  The fact that she couldn’t even be bothered to watch Colbert’s full-show response is very telling, as well.

Indeed, when it comes to this business of having a conversation, Ms. Park would prefer it to be completely one-sided.  Anyone who disagrees with her is part of the problem whether it’s those unnamed, evil “white liberals” she frequently rails against or fellow Asian Americans who either thought the joke was funny (in and/or out of context) or were also offended but disagreed with her cancellation campaign.  To her, the latter are those unacceptable “good Asians” who act more like “sidekicks” to us dreaded Caucasians rather than independent thinkers like her.  So, by that rather rigid logic, the only acceptable Asian-Americans to her are those who are always in line with stunts like this?  She’d make a hell of a dictator.

There’s a troubling, fascistic narcissism heavily sautéed with growing defensiveness to her public statements and actions that make you wonder how she attracts so many willing supporters who, for now, are standing by her rampant foolishness.  It’s clear that the sheer volume of attention the #CancelColbert campaign received overwhelmed her so much she has thus far been unable to articulate to a satisfying degree why it really matters and where we go from here.  (Or maybe she just doesn’t care.)

Nor is she interested in persuasion.  Her blatant hostility to white liberals in general (yet curiously, not white conservatives) and her startling inability to accept that not all Asian-Americans think exactly like her is so unbelievably hypocritical, not to mention deeply insulting, one wonders why she doesn’t immediately recognize this bogus double standard.  Is she as clueless about her own prejudices as the fake Stephen Colbert is about his own?  The evidence isn’t comforting.

On her Twitter account, she recently acknowledged the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., one of the greatest civil rights leaders in American history.  While King’s primary goal was to be a big, strong voice for Black Americans and to help improve & secure their rights and freedoms in a country that has a long history of denying them & their humanity, he didn’t do so at the expense of White America who he viewed as allies, not enemies.  The Civil Rights Act Of 1964, one of the most important pieces of domestic legislation ever passed, would not have happened without the support of hundreds of Caucasian Representatives and Senators, both Republican and Democrat.

But when Park was asked by Salon, “What is the best way to work with white people, to get them on our side?”, regarding her own causes, she responded, “I don’t want them on our side.”

Martin Luther King gave his life to bring the races together.  The divisive Suey Park would rather piss on that proud legacy.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, April 5, 2014
3:13 a.m.

Published in: on April 5, 2014 at 3:13 am  Comments (1)